Liz Phair Transports A Packed Palace Theatre To The 90s With A Flawless Performance


Photos by Laura Buhman

It has been five days spent at five different venues at five vastly different shows. My week closed out at the gorgeous Palace Theatre in Saint Paul with Liz Phair. I’ll be honest, I was still riding high off of my first-ever J-Pop experience on Thursday night and knew that this show wouldn’t be as mind-blowing but I also knew that it would be a solid night so I showed up to the venue bright-eyed and bushy-tailed.

There wasn’t a huge audience in attendance as the opening act Bombshell took the stage. It seemed like the majority of the audience had opted to show up late and just in time for the headlining act but those smart ones that got there on time were given a true treat. Sabrina Mae Teitelbaum, also known as Bombshell, got the night started off right. She and her band hit the audience with a wall of sound before settling into their alt-rock, indie-pop-leaning music. I feel like Bombshell has been buzzing lately so I was beyond thrilled to finally get a chance to see what she could do live and wasn’t disappointed. Although her music is quite a bit lighter than I tend to go for, the amount of raw emotion that she brought to each song was captivating.

There was something perfect about her set yet something so raw and real. It was one of those sets where I felt like she was reading through her diary just based on the amount of passion that came with every phrase and word. On top of that was the word choice. It was relatable for people of all ages which was a good thing because the demography of the show was a bit all over the place. All of that being said, she had a very polished sound. Although I felt the emotion coming through her set, I also felt the perfection and recording-quality sound. What I’m trying to say is that Bombshell has been buzzing for some time and, after seeing her perform on Friday, I get it. Bombshell has a sound and vibe about her that is going to take her far and I can’t wait to look back on Friday night’s set fondly as the first time I got to experience her enthralling magic.

Opening up for Liz Phair can’t be an easy task. I mean, Liz Phair is a legend, and who wants to be that act that has to open up for the one act everyone is waiting for? That being said, Bombshell held her own and the 90s-alt sound that came through in some of the songs and her almost grunge attitude that crept in and out of her set made her the perfect match. Blondshell’s set was followed by a roar of applause from the audience that had gone from scattered to packed and I would be willing to bet that those who showed up towards the end were kicking themselves for not getting there earlier.


Image 1 of 21

Oh Liz Phair. Where do I even start with Liz? You know Liz Phair. Even if you don’t think you do, you do. She was one of those 90s darlings that had more hits than you can really even fathom and a sound that was the soundtrack for a whole generation. That soundtrack came to life on Friday night as Liz played through her 1993 debut studio album, ‘Exile in Guyville’. Although many would debate if this is really her best album, Rolling Stone ranked this one as one of the 500 greatest albums of all time so hearing the album played in its entirety was an absolute treat.

Liz and her amazing band powered through the eighteen-song album taking short breaks here and there so Liz could interact with the crowd. Something about the songs felt rushed but time seemed to slow down when she talked with the audience. Maybe that was the actual case or maybe I was just excited to hear what this legend had to say, regardless, I found myself more excited for the in-between than the actual songs. Don’t get me wrong, Liz sounded absolutely amazing and it was almost as if her voice hadn’t aged (or her for that fact as she looked just the way I remember and sounded almost better than she used to) but something about the sound was almost muffled throughout the set. Everything just felt a bit quiet and the roar of conversations around me had my ADD going off the charts. I found it hard to focus on the actual music but my ears would perk up every time she started to talk to the audience. I won’t give up everything that Liz said but I will say that her words were as beautifully crafted as her music.

Walking into the show on Friday night, I was expecting an almost explosive set from Liz Phair. Okay, maybe “explosive” isn’t the best word to use here but I was definitely expecting something a bit more rockin’ than what I got. Instead of a rock n’ roll fueled performance, the nearly sold-out audience that had gathered at The Palace Theatre was treated to something a bit more bare bones and mature. I couldn’t tell if this vibe was due to the quiet volume that the set was played with but there just felt to be something a bit more adult and held-back about the performance. It wasn’t what I was expecting but it was absolutely perfect and, looking back on the set, I wouldn’t have had it any other way.

I wasn’t one of the people who was singing along to every song of what ended up being the album playthrough followed by a quick encore but I was in the minority there. Everyone around me was reliving their youth and being able to just stand back and watch it unfold was the special magic to my Friday night that I was looking for.


Image 1 of 21